Thursday, April 19, 2012


We are coming down to the wire. Our only school in Blyth is slated to close at the end of June 2012. Most people are sure that nothing can stop this terrible event. They may be right. But I am not prepared to give up yet.

We still have two possible stoppers. Our petition with 631 signatures has been presented several times to the Ontario Legislature. It calls for a moratorium on ALL contested school closures in Ontario as well as legislative changes which will prevent rogue school boards like Avon Maitland DSB from indiscriminate closing of schools, and force school boards to adhere to the community planning principles that protect us from such destructive groups. The Ontario government must answer to us and to the legislature by early June.

The other iron we have in the fire is an appeal to the Auditor General of Ontario to review the joint and separate actions of Avon Maitland District School Board and the Ministry of Education for Ontario in the Accommodation Review process which has led to school closures and school consolidation plans in North Huron. This appeal points to the many wasteful expenditures by both bodies to support ineffective processes, the construction of a new school for which there is no educational justification, for the economic and social damage being inflicted on the community of Blyth, for the board's improper conduct of the Accommodation Review in violation of the Ministry guidelines, and the lack of vigilance of the Ministry of Education by not enforcing its own guidelines.

The collusion of the AMDSB and the Ministry left our community utterly defenceless, and both of those bodies continue to use falsified documents to justify their actions and positions. The most egregious example of this is the report prepared by the independent facilitator, Margaret Wilson and edited by the Ministry, claiming that the school board's process in the accommodation review was beyond reproach. We in Blyth know that that is absolutely false yet that is the weapon being used by the board and the ministry to beat us down. This false defence cost thousands of dollars to construct and that in my mind is not an example of positive value for dollars spent.

This kind of duplicity has been occurring in many jurisdictions across Ontario. It is a "can of worms" that I believe needs to be opened wide. We need to get back to the principle that our elected bodies such as councils and boards are to serve the best interests of those who elect them. They are not there to be co-opted by the provincial or federal government to deceive us, to beat us down, to tell us what to do or how to behave.

We citizens of Blyth have been denied our democratic rights. We are subjected to taxation without representation. Our school is about to be taken away from us. We are left without the right to appeal the decision to those who have made the decision. To add to the disgrace is the fact that our elected bodies, the school board and the provincial government are both using false and misleading information to justify what they are doing.

I do not know whether the Auditor General for Ontario will take on our case and give us some justice. I will be disappointed if such is not the case.

However I would be even more disturbed if the AGO looks at our situation and decides that no action is required. That would mean that public servants don’t have to be honest. school boards don’t need to be accountable to the public, small rural communities don’t matter. It would be saying that it’s OK to hold expensive public consultations that will never be listened to. It would mean that the Ministry of Education is within its rights to send people out to investigate school board procedures knowing that these people will always find the board blameless and the community at fault regardless of what the reality is.

That would be a hard pill to swallow.

Brock Vodden

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